By the time the Major League Baseball trade deadline came at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Portland Sea Dogs were taking the field for their game against the Erie Seawolves. With no players on the Sea Dogs roster included in any deals crafted by the parent club Boston Red Sox, the team could get back to the business of the second half pennant chase.

“At this level, these guys have been around a little bit now and understand it. As uneasy as it may be, you try to keep your mind focused on what you’ve got to do today,” said Portland Manager Chad Epperson.

Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Erie, the lone run coming on Parker Meadows’ solo homer in the ninth, dropped Portland’s record to 17-11 in the second half of the season. The Sea Dogs now sit a half game behind the Hartford Yard Goats for the Eastern League’s Northeast Division lead. Tuesday’s game in front of 5,302 fans at Hadlock Field opened a two-week homestand in which Portland will host the Seawolves and the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

The Eastern League determines playoff participants by awarding postseason bids to the teams that win the first half and second half of the season. The Somerset Patriots have already earned a playoff spot by winning the Northeast Division first half. If Somerset wins the second half of the season, the division’s second playoff spot goes to the team with the best full season record.

“That gives the team more of a spark,” infielder Christian Koss said of being in a playoff chase. “We have a great group of guys, good camaraderie. The fact that we’re making a push like that, it makes everybody want to play a little better. It all comes down to, can people stay healthy and can we keep playing consistent baseball?”

Koss is one of five Sea Dogs regulars hitting .308 or better since the team returned from its four-day midseason break on July 22. Settled into the No. 3 hole in Portland’s lineup in recent games, Koss entered Tuesday’s game hitting .361 over the last nine games since the break ended, raising his season average to to .288 and on-base percentage to .331. Koss’ 12 home runs and 61 RBI lead the team.


“What we’ve been working towards all year is just being as consistent as possible. A lot of my issue is controlling the strike zone and swinging at good pitches. I’ve gotten more mature in that sense and I’ve been getting pitches to hit,” Koss said.

Tuesday’s lack of offense is a rarity for the Sea Dogs lately, who entered the game averaging close to six runs per game over their last nine.

“We’re starting to make some adjustments as a team, not only individually. Guys are buying into competing in the batter’s box a little more, especially with two strikes,” Epperson said. “It’s not always perfect, but better things happen when you put the ball in play with two strikes.”

Since being called up from High-A Greenville on June 24, catcher Stephen Scott has been another strong bat in the Sea Dogs’ lineup, with four home runs, 16 RBI and 20 runs scored in 20 games.

“I think part of it is getting adjusted to a new team. There’s always challenges with that, but everybody here has been really welcoming and provided a great experience for me. It’s great to be able to play with some of the guys I finished up last year with, that’s definitely helped me be more comfortable in the locker room,” Scott said.

Waiting out the trade deadline all day Tuesday is just part of life in the minor leagues.

“I wouldn’t say it’s stressful. It’s entertaining. It lets you know you’re in this business. At the end of the day, it comes down to teams wanting pieces. A lot of people are on their phones, checking Twitter to see if their name’s on there,” Koss said after taking batting practice two hours before the deadline passed.

Koss recalled how he was traded by Colorado to Boston in December 2020 after the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I didn’t play for the Rockies that year, and all of a sudden I’m a Red Sox. It happens instantly, but it’s part of it,” Koss said.

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